13 Smart & Creative Dining Hall Hacks

My senior year is just around the corner, so I can say with confidence that in these past years I've developed a love-hate relationship with our dining halls. Even though UNH has an award-winning dining program, we all eventually get sick of the food.  March is that time of year where everyone is completely over the same-old.

Here are some smart and creative dining hall hacks to help make that meal plan worthwhile. 

Smart Hacks

1. Carry-out items.

You can easily stock your dorm/apartment with fresh fruit, tea, sugar packets, muffins, bagels, and more. Save money on groceries by taking a few items with you every time you visit a dining hall. 

2. To-Go box.

UNH, and many other colleges, give you the option to use carry-out containers. Although they're meant for you to grab a meal and go, my roommate started doing something even better. She'd fill to-go containers with raw ingredients (broccoli, peppers, mushrooms, chicken etc.) that she would cook later in our apartment, which definitely saves on groceries.

3. Refillable drink containers.

Bring in a travel mug or two to fill up with milk, coffee, or your favorite juices.

Creative Hacks

1. Build-your-own quesadilla.

I end up visiting three to four different stations for this, but its definitely worth it. Grab some tortillas and fill with cheese and your favorite extras (grilled chicken, corn, beans, onions, peppers, etc.). Fold it over and place in the Panini maker for a custom quesadilla. You can typically find sour cream and salsa to go with it. 

2. DIY trail mix.

Take come cereal and granola from the breakfast station, mix with nuts at the salad station and chocolate chips from the ice cream station.

3. Steamed veggies.

"Steam" veggies like broccoli, carrots, or spinach from the salad bar. Just microwave in a bowl with a little bit of water.

4. Upgraded burrito bar.

It's easy to get sick of the same burrito bar. Combine regular ingredients in a bowl of lettuce for a yummy taco salad. 

5. Pizza everything.

Toast a bagel then top with sauce and cheese from the pasta station (and any other toppings you want). Microwave until cheese is melty and you have something so much better than cold, flat pizza.  

6. Salad upgrades.

Start loading up your greens with all the toppings you can find, it's fun to find new combinations that taste great. 

7. Stuff to dip.

There's no better snack than apples, bananas, or pretzels with peanut butter (or nutella).

8. Twice "baked" potatoes. 

Take the boring baked potatoes available and make them lively! Cut open, fill and mix with fun additions, top with cheese, and microwave for a twice "baked" potato. 

9. Make grilled chicken better.

There's always plain grilled chicken, but that gets boring fast. Drizzle with buffalo sauce, barbeque sauce, stir fry sauce, or pretty much anything!

10. Instead of stir fry. 

If you're a student at UNH, you know every dining hall has a stir fry station that's almost always running. When you get sick of teriyaki sauce, try mixing stir fried veggies with pasta, olive oil or butter, parmesan cheese, and other seasonings for an easy "stir fry" pasta dish.